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PASS Summit 2011 Recap

This is my late review of the PASS Summit 2011, which was hosted once again at the Washington State Convention & Trade Center in Seattle a couple of weeks ago. The PASS Summit is the largest SQL Server event in the world and this year was scheduled to run 189 sessions with 204 speakers from all over the world. In addition to being my ninth year attending this conference I was also excited that this was my fourth year speaking there as well.

So the week started for me on Monday morning flying from Los Angeles to Seattle. Later in the afternoon I went to the registration area where I started meeting a lot of people of the SQL Server community just to end the day with some SQL Karaoke at the Bush Garden. I was originally scheduled to attend Dr. David DeWitt’s pre-con “A Peek Inside an RDBMS” on Tuesday but unfortunately it was cancelled and I didn’t attend any other pre-con that day. The Welcome Reception was held on Tuesday night and included the traditional Quiz Bowl, which I show in the next picture. From the Welcome Reception some of us went to the Speakers and Volunteers Party at hosted The Garage.


On Wednesday, the first keynote of the conference started with Rushabh Mehta, PASS President, and was followed by Ted Kummert, Microsoft Senior Vice President, Business Platform Division. Not a big surprise but Ted made it official that SQL Server code-named Denali will now be named SQL Server 2012 and will be released on the first half of the next calendar year. Among other things, Ted talked about Big Data and announced that Microsoft will be supporting Hadoop and it is planning to deliver Apache Hadoop-based distributions for both Windows Server and Windows Azure. He also mentioned that SQL Server and SQL Server Parallel Data Warehouse connectors for Apache Hadoop had being released just the previous week. By the way, all three keynotes of the conference were broadcasted live and you can still watch them on demand at the PASS website.

I had to leave the keynote early to find the room and prepare everything for my first session at the conference. My session, “Inside the SQL Server Query Optimizer”, was scheduled for a room with capacity for 520 people and next is a picture taken just a few minutes before I started presenting. I was even asked to sign a copy of my book just before my session 🙂


The rest of Wednesday after lunch I went to a couple of sessions. With 15 sessions running concurrently choosing which ones to attend was not an easy task. I attended Bob Ward’s half-day session “Inside Tempdb” and later went to Aaron Bertrand’s “What’s new in SQL Server code-named Denali – Engine and Tools”. Half-day sessions were new at the PASS Summit this year. On Wednesday night I went to the SolidQ Party, which I’ve also attended in previous years.

I was not presenting any session on Thursday so I just went to the keynote and spent the rest of the day attending sessions. The keynote included Bill Graziano, PASS Executive Vice President, Finance, and Quentin Clark, Microsoft Corporate Vice President. Quentin started talking about SQL Server 2012 and warned that would be impossible to talk about all the hundreds of new features and improvements of this new version so instead he went into explaining his 12 favorite areas of value, which he called the “Fantastic 12 of SQL Server 2012”. He spent the rest of the keynote talking about the most important new SQL Server 2012 features grouped into these 12 areas of value. After the keynote, my choice for session in the morning was Itzik Ben-Gan “Bug or Feature?”.

During lunch I was on the same table as Eric Hanson, Principal Program Manager Lead, Query Processing and Storage at Microsoft, so I used the opportunity to talk to him about the new columnstore indexes feature. After lunch I went to the session “Physical Join Operators” by Ami Levin, which was very entertaining. I continued with Rob Farley “Joins, Sargability and the Evils of Residualiciousness” to finally close the day with “SQLCAT: SQL Server HA and DR Design Architectures and Best Practices” with Sanjay Mishra, Justin Erickson and Mike Weiner.

I spent Thursday night mostly at the Community Appreciation Party, hosted again this year at GameWorks. I met many people there and ended in the same table with Lubor Kollar who mentioned that he is back to work with the SQL Server Core Engine development team, responsible for query optimization, query execution, and data warehousing.

The keynote on Friday started with Rick Heighes, PASS Vice President, Marketing, followed by David DeWitt, Microsoft Technical Fellow, Data and Storage Platform Division. Dr. DeWitt’s keynote, entitled "Big Data: What’s the Big Deal?", was one of the most anticipated sessions of the conference and focused on Hadoop and its ecosystem of software tools. He concluded his keynote saying that relational databases and Hadoop are designed to meet different needs and they can complement each other so database professionals need to make sure that both technologies work together the best they can. After the keynote I attended Adam Machanic “Query Tuning Mastery: Zend and the Art of Workspace Memory”.

Something amazing for me during the conference was seeing my book Inside the SQL Server Query Optimizer available at the PASS Bookstore. Next I am including a picture taken on Friday when there were only a few copies left 🙂 -It is the one with the beacon in the cover. I also saw my book at the Red Gate booth and, of course, I gave away a couple of copies at each of my sessions.


Just after lunch on Friday I went to see Susan Price and Murshed Zaman presenting “Project Apollo: How to use Columnstore Indexes to Revolutionize Query Performance on your Data Warehouse”. Susan presented a similar session last year but I was not able to attend it as I was also presenting a session at the same time. I stayed in the same room to learn more about the columnstore indexes with Wayne Snyder’s session “Using Columnstore/Vertipaq indexes in SQL Server code-named Denali” but again I had to leave early as I was speaking next.

Then it was time for presenting my last session, “Parameter Sniffing: the Query Optimizer vs. the Plan Cache”. Since this was the last round of sessions at the conference I was wondering, same as other speakers I met at the Speaker Ready room, if nobody or very few people would show up. Fortunately the attendance for my session was good enough and the presentation went really well. Finally I spend Friday night with dinner at the Tap House with several people of the SQL Server community.

Something interesting I saw on Saturday afternoon while going for lunch to the Hard Rock Cafe was the people of the Occupy Seattle movement on the streets of Seattle. I took several pictures there, one is shown next.


I flew back to Los Angeles on Saturday night and interestingly enough I was scheduled to speak again at the SoCal Code Camp at the University of Southern California the next day, where I presented the same two sessions I did at the PASS Summit.

In summary, this was another excellent PASS Summit and I can’t wait for the next one, which is already scheduled for Seattle in November 6-9, 2012. See you then.

About the author

Benjamin Nevarez Benjamin Nevarez is a database professional based in Los Angeles, California who specializes in SQL Server query tuning and optimization. He is the author of three books, “High Performance SQL Server”, “SQL Server 2014 Query Tuning & Optimization” and “Inside the SQL Server Query Optimizer” and has also coauthored other books including “SQL Server 2012 Internals”. Benjamin has also been a speaker at many SQL Server conferences and events around the world including the PASS Summit, SQL Server Connections and SQLBits. His blog can be found at and he can also be reached on twitter at @BenjaminNevarez.


  1. […] are dozens of sessions with all the major speakers in the industry (there are many reviews, such as PASS Summit 2011 Recap).  It’s a great way to not only learn more about SQL Server but also to network with other […]

  2. Joseph Sheppard says:

    Benjamin, your presentation was excellent! You were able to get on a roll, despite the sometimes-irrelevant questions peppering you 🙂

    Turns out we attended many of the same sessions, by the sound of it.

    I wish I could have stuck around Friday afternoon….The “Parameter Sniffing” class was on my list 🙁

  3. Benjamin Nevarez says:

    Hi Joseph,

    Thank you so much for your comments and for attending my session at the PASS Summit. Hopefully I’ll see you in Seattle again next year!



  4. […] believe I haven’t posted anything in my blog in months. Just after getting back from the PASS Summit 2011 I got involved in several SQL Server projects and I’ve been really busy since then. By the way, I […]

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